Valley Breeze

The Valley Breeze Cumberland Lincoln 04-01-2021

The Valley Breeze Newspapers serving the Northern Rhode Island towns of Cumberland, Lincoln, Woonsocket, Smithfield, North Smithfield, Pawtucket, North Providence, Scituate, Foster, and Glocester

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2 LINCOLN APRIL 1-7, 2021 | VALLEY BREEZE | CUMBERLAND LINCOLN EDITION LINCOLN – When Joseph Almond was elected as Lincoln's town administrator in 2006, one of his main goals coming onto the job was proving the town could be man- aged in a better way. "What I walked into was horrible dysfunction. It was messy," he said. "No one got along, there was infighting; nothing was getting done and the tax rate was climbing steadily. We hadn't paved roads, all of our parks and playgrounds were ancient, our police station was under- sized and completely non-functional. Our library was too small and our elementary schools were aging." Almond had run twice, unsuc- cessfully, in 2000 and 2002 before he was elected in 2006. More than 14 years after he first took office, he is starting a new chapter as deputy chief of staff for Gov. Dan McKee. He described a culture of distrust festering at Town Hall and seep- ing out into the community at-large when he first took the office of administrator in January 2007. The dysfunction went beyond poor management, he said. If a town councilor of the opposite political party asked for help with a constitu- ent's issue, their problem had less chance of being resolved. "Everything breaks right down, and when it's broken it's really hard to fix," he said. "I focused on saying, this can be fixed, I'm here to try to fix things that benefit the town." Setting out to prove that town man- agement "doesn't have to be caught up in party politics and personali- ties," he said he got to work building a level of trust and respect with the Town Council, employees at Town Hall, local businesses and residents. Councilors originally questioned whether Almond's prior employment at Twin River Casino might preclude him from objectively dealing with the town's largest commercial busi- ness. They accused him of under- valuing the casino on taxes because he worked there. "The investigation proved the total opposite," he said. Early in his tenure, Almond helped set up a restricted fund of excess gaming revenues from the casino to be used on capital projects through- out town. By doing so, he said, Lincoln has been able to invest more than $100 million in capital projects, while only borrowing $63 million. Prior to creating a capital plan for the town, he said decisions on capital projects were mostly arbitrary and as-needed. He pushed for a new senior center, a renovated animal shelter, doubling the size of the police station and putting an addition on the Lincoln Public Library. He oversaw the reconstruction of each of the town's sewer pump sta- tions, updated each of the parks and playgrounds, signed off on school upgrades, and roughly $8 million in road repaving. Between the large capital projects, Almond was busy building trust and addressing problems as they came up. "Early on, people were surprised to get a call back from Town Hall," he said. Two years into his tenure, the country hit a recession and state funding was cut. By freezing wages and cutting new spending, Almond said Lincoln was able to come out of the recession in a relatively healthy position. Almond said his time as town administrator has been marked by forward-planning, always asking, "what can we do in the next five years?" While Almond said it can be tempting for a new administrator to reduce taxes, he said he "hopes to God" his successor embraces the policy of capping casino money to be used on capital projects. "I believe the town is on a good track for another decade at least. I just pray they keep the capital money capped. The biggest danger to tax- payers in the future is not maintain- ing capital investments," he said. Almond says farewell as he exits Town Hall By NICOLE DOTZENROD Valley Breeze Staff Writer nicole@valleybreeze.com BREEZE PHOTO BY NICOLE DOTZENROD After more than 14 years as Lincoln town administrator, JOSEPH ALMOND is mov- ing on to the Statehouse. See ALMOND, Page 18

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